Sleep and waking differ significantly in terms of behavior, metabolism, and neuronal activity. Recent evidence indicates that sleep and waking also differ with respect to the expression of certain genes. To systematically investigate such changes, we used mRNA differential display and cDNA microarrays to screen approximately 10000 transcripts expressed in the cerebral cortex of rats after 8 h of sleep, spontaneous waking, or sleep deprivation. We found that 44 genes had higher mRNA levels after waking and/or sleep deprivation relative to sleep, while 10 were upregulated after sleep. Known genes that were upregulated in waking and sleep deprivation can be grouped into the following categories: immediate early genes/transcription factors (Arc, CHOP, IER5, NGFI-A, NGFI-B, N-Ras, Stat3), genes related to energy metabolism (glucose type I transporter Glut1, Vgf), growth factors/adhesion molecules (BDNF, TrkB, F3 adhesion molecule), chaperones/heat shock proteins (BiP, ERP72, GRP75, HSP60, HSP70), vesicle- and synapse-related genes (chromogranin C, synaptotagmin IV), neurotransmitter/hormone receptors (adrenergic receptor alpha(1A) and beta(2), GABA(A) receptor beta(3), glutamate NMDA receptor 2A, glutamate AMPA receptor GluR2 and GluR3, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor beta(2), thyroid hormone receptor TRbeta), neurotransmitter transporters (glutamate/aspartate transporter GLAST, Na(+)/Cl(-) transporter NTT4/Rxt1), enzymes (aryl sulfotransferase, c-jun N-terminal kinase 1, serum/glucocorticoid-induced serine/threonine kinase), and a miscellaneous group (calmodulin, cyclin D2, LMO-4, metallothionein 3). Several other genes that were upregulated in waking and all the genes upregulated in sleep, with the exception of the one coding for membrane protein E25, did not match any known sequence. Thus, significant changes in gene expression occur across behavioral states, which are likely to affect basic cellular functions such as RNA and protein synthesis, neural plasticity, neurotransmission, and metabolism.